Grimard also contended with race and class issues within his team. Most of the nine members were black or Latino. Some grew up in poverty--and doubted his ability to teach students whose lives were so different from his own. "There was some judgement that 'he's not going to be able to work with the kids,'" he recalls. Although the team eventually coalesced, emotions sometimes boiled high, with one black volunteer angrily accusing a white leader of racism. Grimard himself was the reluctant star of a brief soap opera when the same volunteer made it clear she was romantically interested in him, a sentiment he didn't reciprocate. "She was pursuing me and it got really weird. She ended up resigning."
His City Year pay, about $1,100 a month, just covered the rent on his one-bedroom apartment. Grimard praises his dad for helping with meals and movie money. His father, Dennis Grimard, a scientist who runs a large research facility on North Campus, says he wanted his son to experience a big city, but recalls, "When I dropped him off in the middle of the Bronx, I was worried and nervous."
Grant learned street smarts pretty quick: "The biggest thing is not to fall asleep in the subway at night," he says. And he's proud that "I know the New York subway system like the back of my hand." An unexpected bonus was a City Year benefactor who arranged for him to interview a corporate pilot--in the cockpit of his jet. "While walking through the plane, I couldn't help but notice how right it felt," he blogged.